From the ayurvedic perspective, menopause marks the transition from the Pitta phase of life to the Vata phase of life. During the transition, imbalances in both Vata and Pitta may occur.
Hot flashes and night sweats are created by an imbalance in Pitta in the deeper tissues of the body and the build-up of ama (toxins) in the channels of the body. When ama accumulates in the body, the flow of heat in the deeper tissues can get constricted. It tends to build up and then, when it finds an outlet, flashes out in a fashion that leaves you feeling uncomfortable. A sub-dosha of Vata, called Vyana Vata, can aggravate the problem if it is also out of balance, by “fanning the flames” with a dry wind action. Two keys to relief from hot flashes, therefore, are balancing Pitta dosha and cleansing ama from the body.
In her book A Woman’s Best Medicine for Menopause, Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf explains that hot flashes follow a daily pattern and tend to peak in most women in the late evening hours around 10 p.m. Ayurvedically, this time of the night is the start of Pitta time (10 p.m. – 2 a.m.), so one would expect this to be the time when Pitta becomes active in the body as well. To keep Pitta from flaring up, therefore, you have to learn to consciously cool down during the evening. Take time to relax, physically, mentally and emotionally. Drink some cooling Pitta Tea or Rose Petal Preserve in cool milk.
In general, avoid always working under deadlines or time pressure. Do not overwork. Prioritize, delegate, simplify–whatever it takes to ensure that you can get through your day without constantly being stretched.
Do not skip meals, and make sure you eat lunch around noon when your digestive fire is at its peak. Eat plenty of sweet juicy fruits–ripe pears are excellent for balancing Sadhaka Pitta, a sub-dosha of Pitta that governs the emotions. The Pitta-pacifying diet favors the sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and recommends avoiding sour, salty and spicy foods. Drink lots of room temperature or cool (not ice-cold) water through the day. Include some Ghee in your diet–it’s very good for pacifying Pitta. Cook with cooling spices such as coriander, anise, fennel and mint.
Periodic internal cleansing is important in order to rid the body of toxins. With the cessation of menstruation, women lose one avenue of periodic cleansing. To compensate for the loss of natural purification that occurs with each monthly cycle, you need to follow the ayurvedic recommendation of internal cleansing at every change of season at the minimum.
Eat a light, easy-to-digest diet during the period of cleansing. Drink lots of water. Perform the daily ayurvedic self-massage with a cooling oil such as Cool Sensation Massage Oil. Go to bed by 10 p.m. The Elim-Tox-O is a gentle whole body cleanser and works to rid the body of toxins without inflaming Pitta dosha.
For more ways to balance your Pitta and internal cleansing therapies, read The Ageless Woman by Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf.
The new Hot Flash Relief herbal tablets from Maharishi Ayurveda offer holistic support for balancing Pitta in the deeper tissues of the body and can be taken in preparation for menopause, during menopause and by postmenopausal women. The combination of Shatavari, Indian Sarsaparilla, Indian Gooseberry, Water Lily, White Sandalwood, Indian Tinospora, Rose, and Licorice provides the cooling action by increasing soma (cooling lunar energy), which balances agni (heating solar energy) in the body. This formula is helpful for balancing Sadhaka Pitta, which governs the emotions, and Ranjaka Pitta, which governs the blood.
Let’s start with hot flashes. Hot flashes are caused when too much Pitta dosha accumulates in the body and at the same time ama blocks the channels (srotas). This causes the circulation of heat to become uneven, which women experience as hot flashes. Hot flashes, you could say, are the body’s attempt to release heat that has accumulated due to blocked channels.
There is another factor that is highly important here, and that is the influence of soma on a woman’s physiology. Soma is the cooling, nourishing substance related to lunar energy that is more predominant in a woman’s physiology (see box for more detailed explanation). When, due to Vata and Pitta imbalances, the cooling soma decreases, this contributes to chronic hot flashes. Hot Pitta burns soma and high Vata dries it. When the channels are clogged and the release of heat in the body gets obstructed, then heat builds up and eventually gets released through uncomfortable hot flashes or night sweats.
Once there is this level of Pitta imbalance, and the damage has been done, so to speak, then what is needed is an herbal product to reduce Pitta in the deeper tissues of the body, such as the muscle and fat tissues. In addition, the microcirculatory channels of all the tissues (dhatus) and the waste products (malas) need to be cleansed. It’s necessary to regulate the heat throughout the body and the brain as well. Most importantly, the connection between the the mind and body and the mind and the heart need to be re-established. In ayurvedic terms, this relationship between mind and heart is governed by Sadhaka Pitta, the subdosha that regulates the emotions and their effect on the heart, and Prana Vata, the subdosha that regulates the mind and senses. Finally, in chronic situations, soma must be increased, because the burning effect of hot flashes has reduced it to critical lows.
Hot Flash Relief is designed to repair all of these imbalances in order to cool the body and reduce hot flashes during menopause.
Let’s look at the first benefit this formula imparts: to reduce Pitta in the deeper tissues of the body. To reduce Pitta imbalance in the deeper tissues, the fat (medha) and muscle (mamsa) tissues, we added the ayurvedic herbs Shatavari, Indian Asparagus, Indian Sarsaparilla, Khus Khus Grass, Water Lily, Sandalwood, Indian Tinospora, Cabbage Rose, and Mica Bhasma. These herbs, when combined, perform an important task. They go deep into the fat and muscle tissues and remove the heat that has been stored there.
There’s a very interesting story related to one of these ingredients, Water Lily, which to me illustrates how this wisdom of Maharishi Ayurveda is so profound. In ancient times, the great seers were aware that there were many herbs to increase soma and reduce heat in the deep tissues of the body. But they also knew that there was only one herb that is ideal to increase soma production in women, and that herb is the Water Lily.
Now, every herb has its own intelligence, its own purpose. Some plants are receptors for solar energy (agni), and thus have a heating effect on the human physiology. Other plants are receptors for lunar energy (soma), and thus have a cooling, nourishing effect. To understand how this works, think of a chili pepper. Nature has given it a receptor, you could say, that allows it to store solar energy. If you allow a green chili to mature until it is red in color, it will store more solar energy and we experience this as a hotter taste.
I learned a valuable lesson about the intelligence of herbs when I was interning with my father. We lived near a pond in which the Water Lily and the Red Lotus grew. The Red Lotus is large and red, and its petals are open during the day and closed at night. The Water Lily, on the other hand, opens its petals at night and closes them during the day.
My father pointed out that both lilies are cool by nature because they live in the water and derive their nourishment from the water. So both are good for pacifying Pitta on the deeper tissues, as is needed in the Hot Flash Relief formula. But if you also need an herb that increases soma, then the best choice is the Water Lily, because its petals are open during the night and closed during the day. The fact that it is open to the moon and closed to the sun makes it a receptor of lunar energy, and the best herb to increase soma in the feminine physiology.
You can see from this illustration that if you follow the traditional, proven guidelines of Maharishi Ayurveda, the formulation ends up being unique and highly effective.
Other herbs such as Long Pepper, Indian Sarsaparilla, Turbinella rapa Bhasma and Cumin seed cleanse ama from the microchannels. Indian Tinospora, Shatavari, Coral (Corallium Rubrum) and Licorice nourish the connection between mind and body and mind and heart. Khus Khus Grass (Vetiver), Sandalwood and Mica Bhasma maintain proper heat regulation.
As far as dietary tips for reducing hot flashes, follow a Pitta pacifying diet. Don’t eat anything that aggravates Pitta. Favor sweeter, juicy fruits, Rose Petal Preserve, and start the day with a stewed apple.
Keep your home environment cool, pleasant and loving. Fill your garden and home with roses. For daily abhyanga (ayurvedic oil massage), use 50% Youthful Skin Oil and 50% Cool Sensation Oil. This will calm and balance the emotions and support coordination of body, mind, and heart.
Reprinted with permission from Maharishi Ayurveda Products International – MAPI.com
Nancy Lonsdorf, MD is a prominent Ayurvedic physician, speaker and author of The Ageless Woman: Natural Health and Beauty After Forty with Maharishi Ayurveda (MCD Century, 2004).